The Kiwior Family

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Story of Rescue - The Kiwior Family

Genowefa Kiwior was born in the village of Adamierz (currently the Podkarpackie Voivodeship, the Tarnow powiat), to a farmer’s family. She had two sisters and two brothers. She lost her parents early (her mother passed away before the war, her father - during the war); during the nazi occupation of Poland she was running the farmstead with her two younger brothers.

In her interview for the Museum of History of Polish Jews, Genowefa recalls: “The whole of Dąbrowa [Tarnowska] was a Jewish town … But they were good people, and I was working for Jews, they were very good people. They didn’t look for ways to use people. … I respected them and they respected me.”

The Rescued

Celina Holzer was a clerk at the Tarnów City Council. Shortly after the requirement for Jews to wear armbands came into effect (in December 1939), she was forced to leave her job. After the Tarnów ghetto was formed, she and her parents were relocated there.

She was the only member of her family to survive the liquidation of the ghetto; she was made to pack the items left by the other Jews and prepare them for shipment to Germany. In February 1944, when commandant Amon Göth came to Tarnów to oversee the transport of the remaining Jews to the concentration camp in Płaszów, she managed to escape.

Hesiek Buch was a tailor from Kraków, it is believed he escaped the Tarnów ghetto with Celina Holzer.

The two probably encountered Józef Kiwior in Mościce, Tarnów’s industrial district, where he was working at a factory (in all probability the State Nitrogen Compounds Works, a former name of the current Zakłady Azotowe w Tarnowie-Mościcach S.A).

The Rescue Story - February 1944 - January 1945

In February 1944, Józef Kiwior hid Celina and Hesiek in the attic of the house in Oleśno where he lived with his wife, Zofia – Genowefa’s older sister.

Genowefa relates: “I didn’t know there was anyone there, and [though] we were sort of helping each other – I’d graze their cow, shepherd it sometimes – [my sister] never said a thing.”

Around September 1944 Zofia Kiwior died in a bombardment. It was then that Genowefa’s brother-in-law and later her husband, Józef, told her about the hidden Jews: “ ‘You now, I’ve got two people in the attic, maybe we could move them to you. I gotta go to work, what’re they gonna do n the attic … What are we supposed to do, we can’t throw them out. Maybe it won’t be long. If you’d take them here, the house is old, not too big, nobody’s going to think there’s [someone]…’ And that’s what happened, he brought them at night.”

The two fugitives were placed in the stack of hay in the attic in Genowefa's house. She recalls: “They spent the days in the attic with nothing to do, just lying there and pondering their fate: what was going to happen to them?”

They came down only in the evenings, “when the lights around went out, in the houses, we’d bring them down, down the ladder to the house, and we’d sit and talk some. And then we had to take them up again.”

Money

The financial situation at the house was bad. Despite the difficulties, the family did not expect any compensation from the rescued: “They were poor, all they had was what was on their backs, because they had to run from the ghetto.”

In her letter to the Jewish Historical Institute, Genowefa Kiwior wrote: “whatever we had we would give to those friends of ours, we would share every slice of bread to survive.”

The family would bring food for the fugitives to the attic and wash their clothes: “We had a barn, a line hung behind the barn, and I’d hang it there, where it was invisible from the road. And I don’t think I even thought anyone might see that.”

The rescued went out during the day a couple of times. Genowefa recounts it: “Once [Celina] even went to the church with me. But in the church, you know, when someone doesn’t know [what to do] … she didn’t know when to kneel, what to do [when needed].” Fortunately no one noticed it.

Threat

Once the neighbors’ son saw Celina Holzer: “He recognized [Celina], and told his aunt that she was a Jewish woman from Tarnów. When she told me, I thought I’d just fall down and never get up again. I was so scared (...) I told them: ‘There were these two, they escaped and asked to let them stay the night, so we did, and they left in the morning.’ ” Afterwards “they didn’t go out until the liberation.”

Genowefa Kiwior explains in her account for the Jewish Historical Institute: “We were living in great fear – the village was small, one house right next to another, so we were always scared that someone might notice them, and then the entire village would be burned down, and we and our friends lined against the wall.”

After the War

Celina Holzer and Hesiek Buch left the house in Adamierz, as recalled by Genowefa Kiwior: “Our friends left us and went back to Tarnów, I remember I walked with them for over thirty kilometers, and they moved in there.”

Shortly afterwards Celina left for the UK, where she married and took on her husband’s name: Morley. For the first years after the war, Hesiek Buch was living in Tarnow, running a tailor shop specializing in preparing patterns, and helping out Genowefa with pieces of fabric for clothes for her children. He married and had two children of his own; several years later he left for Israel.

Genowefa married Józef Kiwior, and the couple settled in a new house in Adamierz.
They maintained contacts with the rescued until the late 1990s.

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Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 2197
  • Maślak Magdalena, Interview with Genowefa Kiwior, 25.03.2009